Saturday, 25 April 2015

April reads

I haven't read a lot recently, which is unusual for me, but here's what I've read this month...

I enjoyed Bend Not Break by Ping Fu, although that enjoyment has now been  tampered by reading reports that large parts of the book were fabricated to make her life in China seem worse than it was. I'm not sure what's true and what isn't, but taking the book at face value, its an inspiring story of overcoming a horrendous childhood in China under Mao's regime during the cultural revolution, to become Founder and CEO of a globally renowed 3D software company. If nothing else, its inspired me to read more about the Chinese cultural revolution, in particular I was morbidly fascinated by the Red Guards - so young yet so powerful. I love stories of women overcoming adversity, so I'll be really disappointed if the accounts of her life have been exaggerated. I love fiction, but not when its masquerading as real life.

I read That Girl From Nowhere after hearing the author, Dorothy Koomson, on Radio 4. It's not a book I would normally have gone for but I'm glad I did. Its the story of Clemency, who was adopted as a child, and who leaves her hometown of Leeds after a break-up and moves to Brighton, where she was born. A chance encounter with her birth family leads to Clemency's life spiralling out of control, and she finds herself embroiled in a situation that no one should ever be placed in. I did get quite involved in this book although I found Clemency infuritating at times. It was a good read though, and I liked the fact that Clemency's adoptive parents were white whereas she was black - it led to interesting themes on race and belonging.

I am possibly one of the last people on earth to read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, mostly I ignored it because of the hype around the film. The 'law of attraction' (God, I hate that term though) is not a new concept so there's nothing new in this book. I've read a lot on this subject, and I believe it to a point - its basic quantum physics, after all - but I prefer more practical, scientific takes on it. This was a bit airy fairy for me.

Ever wondered what its like to have a stroke? Me neither, but I loved, loved, loved My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor. Jill is a brain scientist who had a haemorrhagic stroke at 37, and this book is a moment by moment account of the changes that occured in her brain as it happened. What fascinated me the most was that it was almost a spiritual experience; as her logical left brain shut down, the euphoric, creative right side took over, and although Jill couldn't even recall how to call 911 (or indeed recall that 911 was even A Thing), she also lost all concept of fear, and could not tell where she ended and the rest of the world began. The story of her recovery is humbling yet astounding, and it would be a great read for anyone who is caring for someone who has suffered from a stroke. It was perhaps a bit too spiritual in some parts, but all in all it was an eye-opening read that has really made me think, and yet again ponder what our brains are capable of, and who/what the hell we actually are.

Have you read any of the above? Did you like them? Have you read any good books recently that you'd recommend?

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Monday, 20 April 2015

when life feels broken...

When one part of your life crumbles, you have a choice to let everything else go down with it, or to gather yourself together and concentrate on strengthening the other parts so that you always have something to hold on to.

Or you can do both. I did.

I cut everything I could from my life, just for a couple of weeks. Everything. And the great thing about burning your life to the ground, is that you can clearly see what matters. You scavenge for those parts that mean the most, and you put them together again. But equally, now that all the shit that didn't matter is no longer clouding up your life and judgement, you can see other things more clearly. Things you hadn't even realised were there.

Even now, I'm still going through that transition, but some things are clearer already.

I'm overhauling my diet and morning routine, looking at what works and what doesn't. I'm clearing clutter. I bought a new car (and phone) (and, err, hoover). I'm looking at my budget again, I'm writing lists of places to go and stuff to do. Places I want to go and stuff I want to do. I'm saying yes to social invites. I'm scouring the limited job market up here because you just never know. I have some ideas for self-employment. I'm learning German. I'm going to start running again. I'm doing another meditation and mindfulness class.

I've given up writing stories for women's magazines. Infact I've temporarily stopped writing altogether, until I figure out where I'm going. I've dumped everything I've written into one big file and I'm starting from scratch.
I've deleted nearly every blog post I've ever written; I've saved a couple of relevant ones that I'll reblog some time, but mostly they're all gone. I've got a new design (thanks to the awesome Maru at Fashiony Fab) and a new vision, both of which I'm very excited about.

Life is about change, and this is what change feels like for me. It makes me want to overhaul everything, to give myself space to decide what I want.

And hey, huge thanks for the emails, comments, tweets and texts of support. It means the absolute world to me that people I don't/barely know care enough to send me kind words. If that isn't a good reason to keep blogging and keep being a part of this community, I don't know what is. I mean it. Thank you. You're awesome.

I don't know how things will pan out, but I do know I'm excited about the future and I feel I've given myself a fresh new outlook. Some things are still shit just now, really shit. But all I can do is let these things play out the way they need to, and focus on what positive steps I can take.
My word for 2015 was AUTHENTIC. And now its time to be just that.

How are things with you?